Betsy Newmark has a great write up on the issue of Iran in the President’s press conference yesterday.  Essentially the toughest two questions were dodged.  When asked if accepting the legitimacy of the election would betray what the demonstrators are trying to achieve, Obama said:

Well, look, we didn’t have international observers on the ground. We can’t say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country.

What we know is that a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.

And so, ultimately, the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States.

And that’s why I’ve been very clear, ultimately, this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government.

What we can do is to say, unequivocally, that there are sets of international norms and principles about violence, about dealing with the peaceful dissent, that — that spans cultures, spans borders.

And what we’ve been seeing over the Internet and what we’ve been seeing in news reports violates those norms and violates those principles.

I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that — that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it.

Left unanswered was whether accepting the results of the election would betray what the demonstrators were trying to achieve; demonstrators that Obama appears to have common cause with.  He hopes they take the peaceful path to legitimacy, but the question was, what if they don’t?  Will that have any effect on relations with them?

Perhaps not.  Betsy also notes that another exchange (and another dodge) suggests that it’ll be business as usual, regardless of the election outcome.

Remember that the Obama administration has broken with 30 years of tradition and invited Iranian diplomats to come celebrate the Fourth of July at embassies around the world in what is now being called "hot dog diplomacy." Here is Obama’s response to Fox News’ Major Garrett’s question about the invitation to Iranians diplomats.

QUESTION: Are Iranian diplomats still welcome at the embassy on Fourth of July, sir?

MR. OBAMA: Well, I think as you’re aware, Major, we don’t have formal diplomatic relations with…


MR. OBAMA: … we don’t have formal — we don’t have formal diplomatic relations with Iran. I think that we have said that if Iran chooses a path that abides by international norms and principles, then we are interested in healing some of the wounds of 30 years in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations.

But that is a choice that the Iranians are going to have to make.

QUESTION: But the offer still stands?

MR. OBAMA: That’s a choice the Iranians are going to have to make.

What does that mean? That the Iranians have to decide whether or not to accept the invitation or that the invitation is now contingent on whether or not the Iranians are abiding by "international norms and principles." It’s not clear whether or not he is thinking of rescinding the invitation. The State Department spokesman certainly thinks that the invitation stands.

Obama told Iran that "the world is watching".  Well, lemme tell you, Iran is watching, too.  If nothing changes as a result of violent crackdowns after sham elections, they’ll be empowered to just keep on doing it. 

Filed under: DougIranMiddle East

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